Daniel Ricciardo's strong pace in the final stint of the Bahrain Grand Prix has left Red Bull convinced it can launch a proper challenge against Mercedes and Ferrari for wins this year.
Although Ricciardo's hopes of a good result were hindered by front wing damage after an early clash with Valtteri Bottas, close analysis of the Aussie's times when running in clear air has delivered a boost to Red Bull's hopes.
After the final round of pit stops at Sakhir, and once the lap times had settled down, Ricciardo was able to match race winner Nico Rosberg's pace before the gap came down as the leading Mercedes brought his car home.
That promise, allied to engine and chassis developments that are scheduled to come around the time of the Canadian Grand Prix, has left team principal Christian Horner upbeat about what is to come.
“Particularly the second half of the race in Bahrain, once we got into free air, if you look comparatively at Ricciardo's last stint compared to the lead guys who were not cruising, it looks pretty decent, pretty respectable,” he told Motorsport.com.
“We lost quite a bit of time in traffic early in the race, and that compromises your strategy slightly. But I think the chassis is performing well, the engine has made progress.
“We have another big test in the next two circuits, obviously with the longest straight on the calendar in China, and Russia which is quite power-sensitive.
“So if we can mitigate the damage in those next couple of races, then hopefully soon after that we will get some more power.”
“We are desperate to get a bit more pace, and get on to the group ahead of us,” he said. “But there are very much two divisions.
“We are hopeful of reasonable upgrades around race seven-eight with the power unit, so that will only help us get closer.
"We are determined to try to latch on to the back of that group. Obviously we are working flat out on the chassis side, but there are good things going on in Viry at the moment too."